Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mugabe clings on to power.

ZIMBABWE was bracing itself yesterday for the possibility that President Robert Mugabe, forced into an expected election runoff against his opposition challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, could mobilise an army of thugs to beat, intimidate and terrify voters, while taking emergency powers to vary the electoral regulations so as to make ballot-stuffing easier.

Both Britain and the United States are exercising strong diplomatic pressure on Mugabe not to follow this route. But some diplomatic observers believe that it may be the ageing despot’s only way of keeping his vow to die in State House.

Absolut apologizes for Mexican vodka ad

MEXICO CITY -- The Absolut vodka company apologized Saturday for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern U.S. as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers.

The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan "In an Absolut World," showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence.
I guess I'll be sticking with Stoli.
Skyy Vodka chimes in.

Fury in London.

In a fresh bid by protesters to use the Beijing Summer Olympics as an opportunity to highlight China's human rights record, thousands of demonstrators crowded into the streets of central London on Sunday and turned the Olympic torch relay into a series of angry scuffles and melees. The police said that at least 30 people had been arrested.

More here.

Joke of the Day.

The Gates of Vienna, one of the best sites out there chronicling the multi-century struggle between Islam and the West posted this the other day and I just couldn't resist.

A biker was riding by the zoo when he saw a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage. Suddenly the lion grabbed her by the cuff of her jacket and tried to pull her inside to slaughter her under the very eyes of her screaming parents.

The biker jumped off his Harley, ran to the cage, and hit the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumped back and let go of the girl. The biker then took her to her terrified parents, who thanked him profusely.

A reporter saw the whole scene, and addressing the biker, said, “Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve ever seen a man do in my whole life.”

“Why, it was nothing, really,” said the biker. “The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger, and acted as I felt right.”

“I noticed a patch on your jacket,” said the journalist.- - - - - - - - -

“Yeah, I ride with an Israeli motorcycle club,” the biker replied.

“Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist with the LA Times, you know, and tomorrow’s papers will have this on the front page.”

The following morning the biker bought the paper to see if it indeed had brought out the news of his actions. On the front page was the headline:


Seven Mysterious Disappearances.

The always entertaining Neatorama has the goods on Virginia Dare, the passengers and crew of the Mary Celeste, Dorothy Arnold and others.

Hearts and Minds, Again.

Democrats have a love-forget relationship with the politics of the Vietnam years. The current tranche of congressional leaders is proud of its youthful opposition to John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It is generally agreed, though, that the antiwar legacy damaged Democratic credibility with voters in presidential elections. After the Carter interregnum, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush trumped their opponents on national security.

Most of the time, the national Democratic party is at pains to avoid the label "San Francisco Democrats" that was coined by Jeane Kirkpatrick in her devastating "Blame America, First" speech to the 1984 GOP convention. Bill Clinton's famous 1996 triangulation strategy was designed in part to avoid this national-security virus, which is thought to sit dormant in the brains of blue-collar Reagan Democrats, always alert for an excuse to bolt right. John McCain will offer himself as that excuse. On the handling of Iraq alone, Gallup recently gave Mr. McCain a 14-point lead over either opponent.

The Democratic left never apologized for its antiwar politics. It abhorred Clintonian centrism. The newest generation of "progressives," unabashedly descended from the San Francisco Democrats, wants the party rooted in the worldview and attitudes that came to prominence during Vietnam.

Radical un-chic.

Pablo Picasso was a fraud. So says Tom Wolfe, who does not like Picasso. This much was becoming clear. Picasso, according to Wolfe, “left school just before they taught perspective.” He had to shroud his backgrounds in “fog.” He was a sorry excuse for a draftsman. He rendered “hands that look like the asparagus you get in the store.” That priapic doodler. That asparagus-handed Andalusian. Tom Stoppard sure nailed it in his play Artist Descending a Staircase—“Imagination without skill gives us contemporary art.” Picasso had us fooled! “If I couldn’t draw, I would have started a movement myself. I would call it Cubism.”

Tom Wolfe! There he was, dressed in his Sunday best. The physiognomy. The detachable collar. The author of Radical Chic, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities. Going on about Picasso. And it was starting to sound a little familiar. Wolfe is right that the art world is in crisis. But his articulation of this crisis is curious. He repeats and simplifies. He beats up on straw men. He puts on quite a show. Wolfe himself is a draftsman, a cartoonist of some talent who has illustrated his own books and articles. But for Wolfe, the horses in Guernica are always “choking on a banana.” Or maybe it’s a “light bulb.” When it comes to modern art, he has been painting history with the same broad brush for over thirty years.

7 Abandoned Wonders of the Europe.

The rich stories of individual European nations can be read in part through the amazing abandoned buildings found across the continent. It is truly remarkable how intact some of these structures are even after centuries. From Finland to France, Belgium to Denmark and Poland to England here are seven amazing abandonments from all over Europe.

The Error of Big Government.

Charles Kesler has a fascinating essay in the latest issue of Imprimis.

In brief, Kesler reminds us that we need to distinguish between limited (or constitutional) government and small government on one hand, and expansive government and unlimited (or unconstitutional) government on the other.

Limited government can be distinguished from small government. The two concepts are easily confused because they usually overlap. We are in the habit of invoking, for example, the percentage of Gross Domestic Product that is consumed by government as a sort of criterion. If that percentage goes up, we become alarmed for our liberties. If it goes down, we breathe a sigh of relief. And there is something to this: It is illuminating, for instance, that in 1930, before the New Deal, federal spending was 3.4 percent of GDP, whereas today it’s about seven times that. But there are other instances, perhaps more instances, where that figure can be misleading. At the height of World War Two, for example, the federal government spent 43.6 percent of GDP. But was this big government in the pejorative sense?